Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Perfect Match

When we were married, I brought these into my husband's life:

Turns out, he came with his own baggage, which included these:

Can there be any doubt that we were meant to be together?  I'll bet Edward Stratemeyer would have thought so.

There is a certain set of people who don't place Nancy or the boys high on the literary scale.  And, although I intend to be a judicious gatekeeper between my children and the books they read, I loved Nancy too profoundly as a child to deny her to my children.  I'm delighted that my son has taken an interest in the family collection this summer.

He has his dad read from a Hardy Boys book at night and me read from a Nancy Drew book during the day.  He is careful not to discriminate.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Our Garden Grows

To break the blogging draught, I decided to post some pictures of the plants growing in our yard/garden.  It's a good time of the year here in Oklahoma before the oppressive summer heat sets in.  The plants are looking good.

Cauliflower nearly ready to harvest:'s still trying to get it together:

Onions, consistently our most successful 'crop':

There are annual favorites....

And perennial favorites:

Actually, there are many perennial favorites--we're big heuchera fans around here:


But if I had to pick what brings me the most joy, it is this sight our first blueberry crop:

Despite the lack of posting, we've been very busy in the school room.  I need to get back to the business of chronicalling our efforts here on the blog.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 22: More Fun With Rainbows

Monday at Classical Conversations included presenting on Ronald Reagan, singing "The Orchestra Song" with the group, and making an egg protector.  The rest of the week we practiced our memory work and did work in our usual subjects.  Here's an outline of the rest of our school endeavors for the week:

History:  The fall of Communism

Geography:  Central America
Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling
The Umbrella by Jan Brett
and a book I wish I'd gotten, but didn't:  Guatemala ABCs by Marcie Aboff

Science:  Characteristics of light
My daughter's preschool week was inspired by my son's science memory work regarding light.  We killed two birds with one stone, so see the previous post for books we read.

Language Arts:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading lessons 72-75
The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling review weeks 1 through 7
Handwriting Without Tears
Various Hooked on Phonics level 1 plus Dr. Seuss books

Math:  Quadrilaterals, rectangles and squares
Various Right Start manipulatives like tiles and geoboards

Fine Arts:
Daily violin practice and weekly lesson
A violin concert at a nursing home

Physical Education:

A Rainbow of Books

Well, more accurately, there were books about rainbows because last week it was "R" is for rainbow in our preschool.

Here's a list of rainbow books and other readings:

What Is a Rainbow? a Just Ask book

The Wondrous Day by Hans Christian-Schmidt (my son's very first book)

A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman

Noah's Ark by Peter Spier

Genesis 9:8-16

Our rainbow-inspired scrapbook page:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

C Is For....

Well, to me, the answer will always be 'cookie', but I'm heavily influenced by this song of my childhood:

Despite my childhood bias, we went with 'carrot' in the second installment of my daughter's preschool.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss was our inspiration, a book that illustrates how very good simplicity can be.

Here's our 'C is for carrot' scrapbook page:

Actual carrot seeds followed, which she planted with her dad.

The latest issue of "Better Homes and Gardens" arrived amidst all our carrot activity featuring this recipe, a carrot cake inspired carrot bread, which set me to baking.

Monday, March 21, 2011

O Si Yo, Cherokee National Museum

That means, "Hello, Cherokee National Museum" in the language of the natives.

That is where we spent last Friday.  What a great day!  It was overcast yet warm.  Our home-schooling buddies came with us.  The grounds were beautiful.  Our group practically had the place to ourselves.  We got a lot of good attention from the employees and learned a lot.

First up, was a tour of a Cherokee village as it would have looked 300 years ago when the tribe still lived in the Southeast.

Our tour guide described how they made many of the tools used everyday.

After our tour of the early village, we made crafts.  The boys made stick-ball sticks and the girls made baskets.  Here are ours:

Following lunch, we took a self-guided tour of another village representing the Cherokee way-of-life in the early 1900's, right before Oklahoma statehood.

Some members of our party even managed to fit in a game of hide-and-seek on the grounds before going home from a day well spent.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Week 21: Jelly Beans and the President Who Loved Them

Monday at Classical Conversations included presenting on the Apollo 11 space mission, singing "The Orchestra Song" with the group, and finishing the toothpick bridge.  The rest of the week we practiced our memory work and did work in our usual subjects.  Here's an outline of the rest of our school endeavors for the week:

History:  Ronald Reagan and the Cold War
Geography:  Haiti
Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams

Language Arts:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading lessons 68-71
The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling review weeks 1 through 7
Handwriting Without Tears
Various Hooked on Phonics level 1 readers

Fine Arts:
Viewed Dvorak American Quartet 3rd Movement performance here
Daily violin practice

Physical Education:

Field trip to Cherokee Heritage Center (post to follow)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How Can I Be Mad....

even if a four-year-old and her best friend picked dozens of jonquils off at the head when they look so pretty floating in a white bowl?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Week 20: Three R's and One B

Do you see the calf?
Monday at Classical Conversations included a presentation on his favorite song (which he played on the violin), sang "The Orchestra Song" with the group, and built a toothpick bridge.  The rest of the week we practiced our memory work and did work in our usual subjects.  Here's an outline of the rest of our school endeavors for the week:

Geography/History:  North and South Vietnam
The Lotus Seed by Sherri Garland
The Wall by Eve Bunting

Math:  Measurements
Inch by Inch by Leon Lionni
Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy

Language Arts:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading lessons 64-67
The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling review weeks 1 through 7
Handwriting Without Tears
Various Hooked on Phonics level 1 readers

Fine Arts:
Daily violin practice and weekly lesson

Physical Education:

Viewed the Orion Nebula through a telescope

Thursday, March 10, 2011


My four year-old wants to 'do school.'  If only her brother shared her enthusiasm!  I don't really want to teach her to read until I'm sure she's developmentally ripe.  She's not quite ready.  If I ask what 'mom' starts with, for example, she may say "/m/, /m/, /m/....S!'  If you show her a letter, though, she can usually say what sound it makes.  For instance, if she sees 'mom' written down, she can identify the "m" and say that it says /m/.

Ready or not, I'm not going to rush things as I did for her brother.

To keep her happy, we're going to 'do school' in a simple way.  My inspiration is going to be the "Read to Me and ABC" program at Walking by the Way.  I'm going to use her idea and pull a letter related to a book we're reading and do an activity related to it.  The activity may be as simple as doing a scrapbook page related to the letter and the book.  It will all depend on how well inspiration strikes.  I'll use different books than she did, based on what we have on hand or what corresponds to my son's schooling.

We kicked off the plan today by reading Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni.  The letter is "I" for "inchworm".
Inch by Inch

Here's our scrapbook page using Lionni's illustrations as inspiration.

I think next week will be the letter "C" for "carrot"  using The Carrot Seed as our read-aloud.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 19: Objects in Motion

A 4-year old in motion

Monday at Classical Conversations included a presentation on a hero (he chose David), sang "The Orchestra Song" with the group, and built a paper airplane.  The rest of the week we practiced our memory work and did work in our usual subjects.  Here's an outline of the rest of our school endeavors for the week:

Science:  First Law of Thermodynamics
Energy Makes Things Happen by Kimberly Bradley

Geography:  North and South Korea
The Firekeeper's Son by Linda Sue Park

Math:  Measurements
Right Start Math swim to 10 game

Language Arts:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading lessons 60-63
The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling review weeks 1 through 7
Handwriting Without Tears
Various Hooked on Phonics level 1 readers

Fine Arts:
Attended youth orchestra concert
Daily violin practice and weekly lesson

Physical Education:
Gymnastics, Wednesday and Thursday

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Sale

I've mentioned before that I am a book hound.

I have friends who are stocking up on food and honing their survival skills in case of a financial meltdown.  Instead of wondering what I would eat in such a case, I wonder how my children would get an education without a stockpile of books.  You know, in case the libraries have to shut down.  That's normal, right?  Anyway, financial meltdown or not, I like having the best books at our fingertips.

But, with all good things there is a limit, and I had decided that we had enough books.  My bargain book hunting obsession had to be curbed.  We had reached the book saturation point.

Despite my intentions, on a cold Saturday morning I found myself in a half-mile long line at 7:00 waiting for the doors to open on our areas best annual used book sale.  I only had a half hour to shop after the doors opened at 8 because my son had his last basketball of the season at 9:00 wwwaaayyy across town.

So much for resolve.

Here's what I find in just half an hour for $20.

I noticed after I put my camera away that I forgot to include my favorite find of the day in the above stack, which was a copy of this book:

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths

That's one broken resolution I can feel good about.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week 18: Luck O' The Irish

Irish Soda Bread
On Monday we met with our Classical Conversations group where my son made a presentation on the parable of the prodigal son, did a Morisot-inspired painting of a lion, and observed a spinning fountain demonstrating Newton's third law of motion.  The rest of the week we practiced our memory work and did work in our usual subjects.  Here's an outline of the rest of our school endeavors for the week:

Geography:  Ireland
Brigid's Cloak by Bryce Milligan
Saint Patrick and the Peddler by Margaret Hodges
Saint Patrick by Ann Tompert
Irish soda bread for Sunday morning breakfast (recipe here)

History:  Post World War II era
A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert (highly recommended as a gentle look at the hardships endured in a war-ravaged country)

Math:  Measurements
See this post.

Language Arts:
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading lessons 56-59
The Phonics Road to Reading and Spelling review weeks 1 through 7
Handwriting Without Tears
Various Hooked on Phonics level 1 readers

Family Read-Aloud:
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Fine Arts:
Daily violin practice and weekly lesson
Violin recital concert

Physical Education:
Last basketball game of the season

Friday afternoon at the circus!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feet, Fleas, And A Jumping Contest

We are spending too much time at the desk.  So, at least through April, we're going to do math using a different format.  I'm going to use books and activities to illustrate, discuss and demonstrate math concepts.

A lot of my book and activity ideas will come from here.

This week, for example, our CC math memory work dealt with measurements (specifically, one foot).  So we read the book How Big is a Foot? by Rolf Myller.
How Big Is a Foot?

It's an amusing look at standard measurements.  I also got an idea incorporating a ruler, a discussion about fleas (as in Ctenocephalides felisand a jumping contest from a book called Right In Your Own Backyard:  Nature Math from Time-Life Books.

I think a literature-based approach to math will be a fun change of pace.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

42 before 42

Today I turn 41.  It's a good age, it really is.  I've seen people putting their goals out there in the blogosphere for all to see.  I thought I'd do the same in the hopes it'll give me a little bit of accountability.  I'm approaching my personal list as a series of 42 things I want to accomplish before I turn 42.

Here's the list in no particular order:

  1. Log 42 miles on my bicycle
  2. Walk/job 420 miles
  3. Do a plank for 4 consecutive minutes
  4. Do 40 push-ups in 2 minutes
  5. Do 42 half sit-ups in one and a half minutes
  6. Master meringue
  7. Make sour dough bread
  8. Knit this hat
  9. Hand make 4 other items
  10. Drink 4,200 ounces of water...twice
  11. Learn to write in Spencerian
  12. Learn to play chess
  13. Read 42 books
  14. Read at least four of the Great Books
  15. Change the banner and background on this blog
  16. Blog at least once a week
  17. Go on 42 one-on-one dates with the people in my family
  18. Make 42 calls to my parents, sisters or brother
  19. Mail 42 pieces of personal correspondence
  20. Work through this math book
  21. Attend 42 family meetings
  22. Do 42 nature studies with the kids
  23. Find just the right thing to put over the fireplace
  24. Teach the kids the habit of putting away their own laundry
  25. Make this cake
  26. Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count
  27. Participate in the Great Sunflower Project
  28. Assemble 4 good outfits
  29. Entertain 42 guests in our home
  30. Complete an album or scrapbook
  31. Complete a will
  32. Get a family portrait taken
  33. Join a food co-op
  34. Finish memorizing Ephesians 6
  35. Memorize Paul Revere's Ride
  36. Take a class 
  37. Host a ladies' Bible Study
  38. Memorize a history timeline
  39. Learn to play Scott Joplin's "Bethena" on the piano
  40. Learn to draw
  41. Give 42 items to charity
  42. Bring 4 different kinds of fruits or vegetables to harvest from the space in our yard

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Swede It Is

In conjunction with our Classical Conversations geography memory work, we've been reading lots of books set in northern Europe (see side bar for our list of books).  Their favorites are those by Maj Lindman.  Maj Lindman books feature two sets of triplets who live in Sweden (Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and Flicka, Ricka and Dicka)
This book, part of our own library, bears a notation "Royal School 1955."  This refers to the one-room schoolhouse where my mom spent her elementary years.

These simple stories written in the 1930s and 40s contain wholesome messages (such as, working to earn money, setting aside wants to benefit someone in need, and returning what doesn't belong to you even if you don't want to).  It really makes my heart swell that they enjoy these books.  I take it as a sign of their innocence and purity that these stories appeal to them.  There is not a hint of mockery toward these boys in their beanie caps and 'stockings' or towards the goody, goody girls with the ridiculous sounding names.

Inspired by the Swedish Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and their cake-baking efforts in Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Bake a Cake, I decided to make a Swedish Visiting Cake from my favorite baking book with the kids.  (Find the recipe and a description written by Dorie Greenspan herself here.)  I don't bake with the kids nearly enough, which makes no sense because one goal I have for them is to be competent bakers and cooks at an early age.  This was a perfect baking project because this cake is made of simple ingredients and with simple methods.  My four-year-old daughter said, "I always wondered how to make a cake.  I thought it would be hard."  Here's the result:

Despite its ragged appearance, it is delicious with its lemony flavor and gooey-butter-cake texture. We'll polish it off tonight topped with whipped cream and paired with peaches frozen from summer.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mid-Year Assessment, Part 1

As we're getting into the swing of the second semester, I wanted to assess how the first part of the year went.  This was the original plan.  Here's the update:

Classical Conversations:  He's finished 13 weeks of Classical Conversations.  It's going well.  For the memory work, I think he has about a 75% retention rate.  The English Grammar is his Achilles' heal.  I've just about concluded he isn't going to keep all of those pronouns straight--there are so many types that are so similar.  I am not throwing in the towel, but I find myself thinking more about NEXT year.   Classical Conversations does the same math and timeline memory work every year, so we've been really hammering those two areas to make for an easier first grade year.

Handwriting:  He's finished Handwriting Without Tears.  Now, we're relying on our Phonics Road spelling to give him the handwriting practice he needs.  He is not fast, but he is neat.  I'm kind of a stickler when it comes to handwriting.  I require him to be neat.  He responds well and rises to my expectations.

Read-Alouds:  I've been feeding both kids a steady diet of good books.  I try to read them  three picture books a day.  Sometimes it's more, rarely is it less (I was a little sporadic at Christmas time).  I usually have a chapter book going, too.   I'm keeping track of the books we've read in 2011 on the sidebar.  Even if we read a book several times, I'll only list it once.  Reading aloud is something easy for me to do as we all enjoy it, but I think we could read together even more.

Reading and Language Arts:  As I mentioned before, we've been engaged in 'basic phonics re-training' to nip word-guessing in the bud.  It has gone really well.  He's learned around 50 letter and letter-team sounds WELL.  He can say each of these sounds by sight using flash cards and dictate the sounds if I say them.  He does this as part of the Phonics Road curriculum.  He's to the point of putting the sounds together to form words (i.e. spelling).  I've read that a child will learn to read words a lot easier if he also learns to spell the world.  That would be fine, if his writing wasn't so torturously slow.   I'm too impatient to just plod through reading by connecting it with spelling.  So, although we are going to keep plugging along with the spelling, I'm also going to get his fluency up by returning to reading actual books and doing daily lessons in the The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading

We skipped the first 40 lessons, and the next 100 lessons or so will be review.   However, we're going to go through those 100 or so review lessons to further strengthen his reading foundation.  To spice things up, he's going to read a book a day.  But, I am going to take the extreme-ish measure to cover the pictures so he doesn't fall back into bad habits.  We've started back with the most basic beginning readers to get him rolling.  I'm going to keep track of the books he's read in the side bar.

Music:  His violin is going very well.  The daily (that means EVERY day) practice is really the key. He's practiced every day since starting in May, more than 200 straight days.  There is often moaning and groaning when it comes to practice, but he says all the time, "I don't like school.  I only like violin."  I find that so interesting.  He's not a terribly ambitious kid, except when it comes to the violin.  With it, he always wants to push so that he can move on to the next song.  

I'm pooped--more updates to come.